Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bernstein and the Buzzcocks

Today a song popped into my head that was a favorite during my teen years — the Buzzcocks' "Why She's a Girl from the Chainstore."

The lyrics are pretty depressing — a description of a dreary working-class girl whose life was "a miserable anecdote." But there is one odd couplet, when songwriter Steve Diggle describes the girl as "Facing Bernstein's barrier/Waiting for someone to marry her."

It would seem that "barrier" was a convenient rhyme for "marry her," but why Bernstein?

That was a question I posed to Diggle when I met him, back when I was a rock and roll obsessive. His answer was charming.

It turned out he was a Leonard Bernstein fan. He had read that Bernstein's New York City accent initially threatened to impede his advancement. In the same way, the Mancunian shopgirl Diggle immortalized was "facing Bernstein's barrier."


  • With a little help from the Beeb, you can "learn Mancunian in 10 minutes."

  • Found on YouTube, a cute example of what Diggle meant — though it's clearly no barrier to a transatlantic friendship: